With a silkscreen in one hand, and an English degree in the other, Tessa Battistin founded Asset Designs. This brand embodies everything we hope to see in the world of sustainable fashion: creativity, individuality and ethical production.
Asset Designs promotes a minimalist and chic take on your closet staple: the classic tee. As stated on their website, “the unique garment dye-process creates subtle variations, so no garment is exactly alike,” because Battistin understands that we are not all alike.
Battistin’s passion for silkscreening began in high school, where she learned the craft through a special credit course. (For those of you like myself who aren’t well versed with the art of silkscreen printing, this ancient Chinese practice uses a wooden frame with mesh fabric coated in emulsion. Ink is then pushed through the screen with a squeegee to render each image onto a flat textile surface.) Since her introduction to silkscreening Battistin continued to consider the value of handmade products through her involvement with each product at her studio in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood.
Battistin believes that it is “important to put people back in touch with where their clothing comes from.”
Each of Battistin’s unique designs has a story to it. The intricate patterns on the “koi fish” are inspired by a Tibetan Buddhist symbol that signifies happiness and spontaneity. Other designs, such as the “MTL map” demonstrates her pride for the city.
The pocket poem tees, however, happen to be my favourite. while on exchange at the University of Bristol, Battistin rekindled her passion for writing, specifically poetry. Inspired to merge her two creative interests, Battistin began to print snippets of poems on the pockets of the signature Asset Designs tee shirts.
Many of Asset Designs’ customers find these pieces to be a key conversation starter. By sharing her lived experiences through unique wearable printed poetry, Battistin offers her customers a way into a larger dialogue of slow fashion. Battistin reflects on how “so much of fashion is nameless.” Asset Designs’ pocket poems and hand printing restores the human aspect back to the relationship between consumer and producer. (Also, how cool is it that she forms a connection with each one of her clients and sends them a handwritten message in each order!)
So often, in fast fashion we see awkward slogans thoughtlessly slapped onto strange places on clothing. (How many times have we all loved the front of a jacket and then turned it around only to find some generic line such as “I Need Coffee” or “High Heels High Hopes”?)
The most important aspect of Asset Designs is that the garments are crafted from 100% washed slub cotton, which is a subtle imperfection that occurs in natural fabric blends, creating a unique texture to each garment.
Referencing the ongoing trend towards organic eating and lifestyle choices, Battistin eloquently stated: “We should be just as passionate about what we put on our bodies as what we put into them.”
Battistin reveals how securing quality fabrics was one of her biggest obstacles because many of the companies she interacted with worked hard at hiding information from her. She described one instance of requesting the certification of sustainability and ethical production from a factory only to receive radio silence on the company’s end. Her experience of supply chain opacity is significant to how we, as consumers, shop because it reveals how easy it is for brands to lie about, or misrepresent, their sustainability ratings and certifications.
Driven by a desire for quality in her materials, Battistin dedicated nearly the entirety of the past year to securing a reliable, ethical, Canadian based producer.
Battistin remarked that brands ultimately work for the consumer, which is easy to forget as they often try to belittle us through aggressive advertisements that claim we won’t have perfect skin without XYZ’s product. Women specifically, represent the largest consumer demographic of the fashion industry, which means that their choices have the biggest influence on the market. Thus, having “the power of the purse” should remind consumers to support companies that align with their personal values.
Female pioneers of the slow fashion industry, such as Battistin, represent this ability to motivate fundamental, meaningful change at the grassroots level.